U.S. clergy warn Canadian churches about U.S. Protestant movement to divest in Israel | VailDaily.com

U.S. clergy warn Canadian churches about U.S. Protestant movement to divest in Israel

TORONTO – Several U.S. Christian clergy joined Jewish leaders in Canada Thursday to protest a growing effort by some U.S. Protestant leaders to divest in companies they believe profit from Israeli control of the Palestinian territories.The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) in August accused several large American companies of contributing to the suffering of Palestinians by selling products such as night vision goggles and helicopters used by the Israeli military in the Palestinian territories.They passed a resolution pledging to use the church’s multimillion-dollar stock holdings against companies profiting from Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza. The Jersusalem-based Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center is spearheading the divestment movement and holding a conference in Toronto this week.The movement has outraged Jewish groups, who say the strategy is biased, anti-Semitic and fails to recognize Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks by Palestinian extremists.”This is blatant propaganda that seeks to isolate and demonize Israel,” Ruth Klein, of B’Nai Brith Canada, told a news conference.She said the disinvestment movement, continued suicide bombings against Israelis and comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday – in which he said Israel must be “wiped off the map” – were sending fresh chills of fear through Jewish communities worldwide.Sister Ruth Lautt, national director of the U.S. Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, called on Canadian denominations to be wary of Sabeel.She was joined by the Rev. William Harter, a founding member of five Christian-Jewish initiatives in the United States and the Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, chair of the Episcopal-Jewish relations committee in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.The Sabeel group, which promotes “morally responsible investment” in Israel as a way to end the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is meeting with Canadian church leaders and private groups to discuss the Mideast and the divestment issue.Sabeel director, the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, is a Palestinian Anglican who says he condemns violence by both sides, though blames the cycle of violence on the Israeli occupation of traditional Palestinian territory.”We condemn all violence, whether coming out from the Palestinian extremists or from the state of Israel and its Army,” Ateek told a separate news conference. “We cannot reconcile violence with justice, being followers of Jesus Christ.”Lautt said Ateek has indirectly referred to the Israelis as Christ killers and was fanning anti-Semitism through his divestment movement and sermons.Ateek, in a sermon in 2001, said: “Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him … The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily.”Ateek insists his words repeatedly have been taken out of context. He said claims he is anti-Semitic and espouses hatred against Jews are unfair. He insisted Saleeb was not calling for divestment in Israel, but investment in the occupied territories by companies whose products and services do not violate the human rights of Palestinians.”We feel that it is very important for the Christian churches to look responsibly at where their investments lie,” he said.Vail, Colorado

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